The USFL’s season is officially underway, and the highly talented New Orleans Breakers (1-0) opened their season with a big win over the equally impressive Philadelphia Stars (0-1), with a final score of 23-17.
It was a slow start for quarterback Kyle Sloter and the Breakers’ offense. The story of the game was New Orleans’ defense, with the highlight being defensive end Davin Bellamy. Bellamy ended the game with 6 total tackles and 3 sacks, also forcing constant pressure on Stars quarterback Bryan Scott.
An early interception for a touchdown by Breakers cornerback Vontae Diggs got them on the board first, but Bryan Scott and the Stars kept the game close. Another 2 points would come for the Breakers on a blocked punt in the endzone, giving New Orleans an early lead even without much success on offense.
Two missed field goals led to the Stars’ eventual demise, continuing the trend of missed kicks we’ve seen throughout the USFL’s opening weekend. Recently we discovered this trend might be due to the chip inside the ball used for measuring 1st downs, as it’s roughly the size of a golf ball per sources close to the USFL.
The Breakers’ offense started figuring things out in the 2nd half, leaning heavily on their running backs, TJ Logan and Jordan Ellis, who split carries. Ellis led the rushing attack for New Orleans, ending the game with 18 carries for 89 yards and 1 touchdown. Logan finished the day with 15 carries for 56 yards and 1 rushing touchdown, also hauling in 4 receptions for 38 yards. The Breakers’ leading receiver was tight end Sal Canella, who brought in 6 receptions for 58 yards. Their quarterback Kyle Sloter ended the day having completed 17/27 passes for 150 yards and 1 interception.
Ultimately, the Breakers’ defense remained strong and held onto a late lead, ending the game with a final score of 23-17.
While the Stars didn’t come out on top, they played a great game, with quarterback Bryan Scott completing 25/36 passes for 202 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Running backs Darnell Holland and Matt Colburn II split carries for the Stars, with Holland taking 9 carries for 52 yards and 1 touchdown, also bringing in 4 receptions for 12 yards. Colburn ended the day with 9 carries for only 14 yards but was a factor in the receiving game, hauling in 4 receptions for 43 yards. Philadelphia’s lead receiver was wide receiver Chris Rowland, who finished the game with 7 receptions for 74 yards.
Things started out relatively slow for both teams, with the Stars missing a 45-yard field goal on their opening drive and the Breakers going 3 and out on theirs.
With about 5 minutes left to go in the 1st quarter, New Orleans scored the game’s first points, with cornerback Vontae Diggs picking off Stars quarterback Bryan Scott and taking it to the house to go up 7-0.
Breakers star defensive end Davin Bellamy racked up 3 sacks in the 1st quarter, but New Orleans’ offense did not get much going in the first half. By the end of the 1st quarter, Stars quarterback Bryan Scott had thrown 12 passes, with Breakers quarterback Kyle Sloter not throwing any.
After the Stars failed to convert a 4th & goal attempt, the Breakers’ offensive struggles continued, and they were forced to punt the ball away on yet another drive. On the Stars’ next series, with their backs against their own endzone, Breakers wide receiver Chad Williams blocked a punt that would go out the back of the endzone for a safety, giving New Orleans an early 9-0 lead.
At this point in the game, Breakers quarterback Kyle Sloter was only 2/3 for 19 yards passing, but the run game finally started to get rolling with TJ Logan and Jordan Ellis. Unfortunately, things wouldn’t get rolling quite well enough, and the team was forced to punt again.
The Stars came out with a bit more life on their next drive, with wide receiver Chris Rowland going up and making an amazing grab to get Philly down the field.
Not long after Rowland’s big catch, the Philly Stars finally got into the endzone, with Bryan Scott finding tight end Bug Howard wide open for an easy touchdown, bringing the score to 9-7 as we approached the end of the 1st half.
While there weren’t many fans in attendance due to rain/lightning delays and Easter Sunday, the few who were at the game got to enjoy some fun from the mascots.
Unfortunately, one negative of playing in a hub city is the hometown team, the Birmingham Stallions, will be consistently pulling the most fans, and you’ll always be trying to sell tickets to the same general group of people.
The Breakers received the ball to begin the 2nd half, but Kyle Sloter’s struggles continued, throwing an interception to Stars defensive back Channing Stribbling.
While the pressure from Davin Bellemy and the Breakers’ defense remained constant, Bryan Scott and the Stars managed things reasonably well, driving down the field, with Kicker Matt Mengel scoring a 38-yard field goal to take the lead.
The Breakers finally got their offense rolling as the 3rd quarter started winding down. Some great running by Jordan Ellis would tee up TJ Logan for an easy touchdown run.
After the score by Logan, the Breakers converted a 2-point attempt, bringing the score to 17-10 as New Orleans re-took the lead.
As the 3rd quarter was coming to a close, Stars running back Darnell Holland broke away for an excellent 42-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game with a score of 17-17.
The Breakers started figuring out their offensive formula for success in the 4th, which against the predictions of many, including my own, clearly became “run the ball.” Logan and Ellis were leaned on for yet another New Orleans drive, ending with Ellis finding the endzone on a short run. They’d miss the PAT and take the lead with a score of 23-17.
As the end of the game approached, Philly missed another long field goal, followed by the Breakers turning the ball over after they failed to convert on 4th down.
On what was becoming a good drive by the Stars, New Orleans ended the game with a forced fumble by defensive end Shareef Miller that was recovered by the Breakers late in the 4th.
After one final drive from each team, neither of which ended with points, New Orleans would knee out the clock, and the Breakers won with a final score of 23-17.
Both of these teams had their ups and downs, but the biggest surprise might have been the lack of passing game for Kyle Sloter and the New Orleans Breakers. While they started to figure things out near the end of the game, the team was much more run-heavy than initially anticipated. This may be due to the fact these teams have only practiced together for 3 weeks, as it seems to be a trend throughout the league in week 1. Hopefully, passing is something that improves as the season goes on and players get more comfortable playing with each other, but we’ll see how things develop.
The biggest takeaway from the Stars is they need more consistency with their special teams unit, but the team played well and fought hard against a highly talented Breakers defense. Bryan Scott looked poised despite playing against a very tough defense, and the Stars have a lot of quality skill position players.
Ultimately, these teams had their ups and downs but showed a lot of promise and should only improve as the USFL’s season continues.
The New Orleans Breakers will go on to face the Tampa Bay Bandits on Sunday, April 24th, at 12:00 pm PT on NBC and Peacock.
The Philadelphia Stars Week 2 matchup will come against the Pittsburgh Maulers on Saturday, April 23rd, at 9:00 am PT on Fox.
New Orleans Breakers